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Dish Urges Subscribers to Vent Frustrations to CBS Local Advertisers as Blackout Drags On

Dish Network is going hyper-local in its with contract spat with CBS.

The U.S.’s No. 2 satellite operator is encouraging customers affected by the blackout of CBS across the country on Dish to reach out to businesses that advertise on the broadcaster’s local stations “to let them know you need their help getting CBS to end this dispute.”

The move by Dish is aimed at applying pressure on CBS via the advertisers that represent the lifeblood of revenue for its affiliates, although it’s not clear how many Dish subscribers will actually take the time to voice their aggravation to area restaurants, car dealerships, or law firms.

CBS stations went dark on Dish in the early-morning hours of Nov. 21. Currently, 28 local CBS channels in 18 markets spanning 26 states are not available to Dish customers as the two sides are locked in a standoff over financial terms.

It’s unusual, if not unprecedented, for a pay-TV operator to rope local advertisers into a retransmission-consent dispute. Dish has long held a reputation of engaging in hardball tactics in carriage negotiations.

Dish, on its dishpromise.com site set up for such programming spats, says: “Local businesses pay for advertising on your local stations and they are losing viewers. Reach out to local businesses to let them know that you need their help getting CBS to end this dispute.”

For example, in the New York market, Dish lists the phone numbers for the following businesses that have advertised on CBS’s WCBS-TV: Nitehawk Cinema, Brooklyn Expo Center, Hudson Terrace, Manhattan Motorcars, Carmine’s Italian Restaurant and Patsy’s.

In L.A., Dish lists KCBS advertisers including Napa Valley Grille, Weintraub, Selth & Nguyen, Riviera Upholstery, Café Pinot, Hopscotch Tavern, and Canaletto Ristorante Veneto.

CBS declined not comment on Dish’s targeting advertisers in the retrans fight. On Wednesday morning, CBS issued a statement that said in part, “We obviously want to strike a fair deal with Dish as soon as possible — but we remain far apart on terms… Clearly, pulling content providers off the air is Dish’s way of doing things. CBS, meanwhile has been attempting to advance discussions with Dish since January of this year.”

According to CBS, its stations have not been pulled by a distributor since the last time its retrans deal with Dish expired in November 2014.

Also on dishpromise.com, Dish is listing the phone numbers of local CBS stations and is pointing out to subscribers that they can watch CBS’s programming on CBS All Access, the broadcaster’s internet-video subscription service. In addition, the site provides listings showing whether specific shows are available on iTunes, Amazon and Hulu.

Meanwhile, Dish is offering free over-the-air antennas to eligible customers affected by the CBS blackout. According to the satellite operator, customers with qualifying equipment in certain locations can choose to receive local channels free over the air and save $10 per month on their bill. Dish says it will install antennas free of charge for customers in CBS markets based on the reception available at their home.

Dish ended the third quarter of 2017 with 13.2 million pay-TV subs, a 3.2% decline over the prior 12 months, as its over-the-top Sling TV bundles fail to offset losses in its core satellite business from cord-cutting and competitive services.

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